How Do You Spell Success?

How Do You Spell Success?

by Mary Ellen Stepanich

At my age, I don’t expect to get smiles or even friendly greetings from handsome young men who cross my path. And I don’t think I ever received whistles, even long before menopause. But a very unusual thing happened yesterday, and I’ve spent some time trying to understand the significance of the exchange.

I was standing at the gas pump at Sam’s Club, waiting for my big old Buick to lap up enough fuel to last for the week. At the lane on the other side of the pump, a gleaming, obviously new, black car pulled up, sporting special license plates advertising a local professional team. A good-looking, black-haired, 30-something businessman, dressed in a crisply ironed blue dress shirt and black slacks with a crease that could slice bread, stepped up to the gas pump.

I was enjoying some secret thoughts about the man, a slight smile on my face, when suddenly he looked at me, nodded, and grinned. “Hello! How are you?”

Somewhat surprised, it took me a few seconds to respond. “Fine, thank you. I was just thinking, there is nothing that defines a man’s success like a crisp, blue dress shirt, vanity plates, and a Cadillac.”


He chuckled, and I interjected, “But that’s not a Cadillac, is it?”

“No, it’s a Chrysler.”


“Same thing. It still spells success.”

The young man gave me a big smile as my side of the pump clicked off, and I prepared to get into my car. As I opened the door to my 6-year-old-Buick, the gorgeous young thing waved and called out a friendly, “Bye, now.”

If I were younger and cuter, I would have thought the guy was flirting with me. But being old and ordinary, I knew that wasn’t the explanation. What is it, then, that could cause two people, totally unconnected either by age or inclination, to enjoy an instant of total rapport?

I’m sure my behaviorist friends would have an explanation, but I like to think in simpler like-attracts-liketerms, or what I call my “naive theories.” I believe that my positive thoughts about the young man opened a passageway between us that provided a momentary connection. We both recognized that the other person was someone who shared similar life notions. In Law of Attraction terms, “like attracts like.” As the Everything Law of Attraction Book explains, “If you are a happy, upbeat person with a smile for everyone, you can expect to find friends and good experiences wherever you go.”

Maybe that’s why book-marketing specialists advise authors to “know your audience” and write to them. Or, as Fats Waller wrote in one of his hit songs, “Find out what they like and how they like it, and give it to ‘em just that way.”

Dr. Mary Ellen Stepanich is a retired professor of organizational behavior who always
Mary Ellen Stepanichtold her students at Purdue, “I’m very organized, but my behavior is a bit wonky.” She has published articles in academic journals (boring), show scripts for barbershop choruses and quartets (funny), and an award-winning radio play, “Voices from the Front,” for Sun Sounds of Arizona (heartrending). Mary Ellen lives in Peoria, Arizona, with her cat, Cookie, and blogs on her website,

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